National | Tino Rangatiratanga

Dun Mihaka remembered as a relentless fighter for justice

Te reo Māori advocate and Māori rights activist Te Ringa Mangu “Dun” Mihaka has died aged 82.

Mihaka rose to prominence in the 1970s, appearing in the courts where he refused to speak English, asserting his right to speak te reo Māori.

His attempts in 1979, rejected by both the district and high courts were appealed to the Court of Appeal and ultimately became the trigger for the WAI11 Waitangi Tribunal claim for te reo Māori.

Mihaka told the tribunal he wanted to speak te reo Māori in judicial proceedings as a right, not because he was unable to speak English.

Fellow Māori rights activist and former Te Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira says Mihaka was a good friend as well as an occasional sparring partner when opinions were divided.

Harawira says he first met Mihaka in Ōtara and his first impression was of a man who wouldn’t take a backward step in pursuit of justice.

Unafraid of standing up

Speaking to, Harawira said Mihaka had an immense contribution to many Māori rights movements but also was unafraid of standing up for what he believed in even if no one else stood with him.

“Ōna tautoko mō ngā kaupapa whenua. Kei reira ia mō ngā hīkoi katoa ki Waitangi. Tōna whawhai mō te reo - ehara i roto i te Kōti anake, ki roto i te ao whānui. Tōna tū motuhake, anō i roto i te Kōti, kia kaua e whai rōia, kia tū koe i runga i tōu ake mana. Me tōna whakapohane hoki ki a Prince Charles i taua wā.”

(He was supportive of land issues. He was there for all of the marches on to Waitangi. His fight for the reo - not just in the courts, but everywhere. He was also an advocate for self-determination. Again in the courts, he refused to engage lawyers saying ‘you need to stand up for yourself’. And of course his baring buttocks towards the then Prince Charles.”

Mihaka gained international notoriety when, in 1983, he bared his buttocks to the then Prince and Princess of Wales, Charles and Diana during a royal visit to Aotearoa. This was followed three years later when Mihaka was arrested for driving a van with an image of a whakapohane near the motorcade carrying Queen Elizabeth II, which was reported by the New York Times.

Harawira said Mihaka, and another Te Tai Tokeru activist, Mangu Awarau, were the two icons he looked up to.

Māori Affairs Minister Willie Jackson said Mihaka was a strong advocate for Māori, and was a dear friend of his uncles Syd Jackson and Moana Jackson, both staunch activists for Māori rights.

“He tika kia maumahara i tana mahi ki te whawhai mō ngā tikanga me tō tātou reo Māori. He rangatira ia.”

(It is appropriate that we remember and acknowledge his enduring fight for Māori and te reo Māori.)

Stood for Parliament twice

A long-time resident of Paraparaumu, Mihaka wrote many books, including one titled Whakapohane, a personal account of the court proceedings of the case of obscene exposure committed during the royal Visit to New Zealand.

He also stood unsuccessfully for Parliament twice. In 1999 he stood as an independent in Te Tai Tokerau, gaining 1.03 per cent of the vote. He contested the Te Tai Hauauru by-election in 2005 for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, challenging Tariana Turia following her resignation from the Labour Party after the controversial foreshore and seabed legislation. He finished second, ahead of four other candidates but more than 7,000 votes behind Turia. understands Te Ringa Mangu Mihaka will make his way from Wellington to Parawhenua Marae, near Kaikohe, to be farewelled by his iwi later this week.

Public Interest Journalism